Resources & Publications

Postsecondary Credentials Offer More than Just an Economic Return to Students

Sep 29, 2010

By Britney Rashleigh and Marcie W.M. Foster

The economic benefit to a student of earning a postsecondary credential cannot be overstated. Over the course of a lifetime, students with a college degree earn approximately 66 percent more than a typical high school graduate.  But a recent report by the College Board, Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society, shows that society also benefits significantly from these educational investments in the form of higher labor market successes, higher tax revenues, and healthier life habits.

On average, a college graduate is more likely to participate in the labor force and have a higher personal income, face lower unemployment rates, and pay higher taxes (on average, 80 percent more than the typical high school graduate).

Not only are the majority of college graduates more economically well-off,  they also tend to embrace attitudes promoted by education that create more responsible health patterns that typically reduce medical costs over the course of a lifetime. Furthermore, those with higher levels of education are more likely to engage in civic life and play a participatory role in their children's activities.

The value of a postsecondary education to individuals and society is unquestionable, yet there continue to be disparities in postsecondary enrollment and attainment by income level, level of parental education, and type of institution attended.  Lower-income students whose parents did not receive a postsecondary education are the least likely to enroll and persist in college-level work.  Lower-skilled students, who have the farthest to travel to attain a credential, are often left to navigate disconnected education systems on their own, with little guidance or advising.  Given the demonstrated benefit to our society, we cannot afford to continue to lock these students out of opportunities for postsecondary and economic success. 

View more statistics in the full report: Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society.

View CLASP's Five Strategies to Help Low-Income Adults and Youth Attain Community College Credentials.


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